Today we look at the Starry Smoothhound in the ninth of our Species Fishing and ID guides.
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Other Names: Mustelus asterias
Description: Slender shark with grey/sandy brown dorsal surface, white ventral surface and two large dorsal fins. Starry Smoothhound have varying degrees of small white spots on the dorsal surface. Unlike Tope, Starry Smoothhound do not have a prominent lobed tail and have crushing pads rather than sharp triangular teeth.
Maximum Size: 140cm
Habitat: Starry Smoothhound are bottom dwellers and are generally found over soft sand, mud or gravel sea beds though in some areas they may be found over rougher rocky sea beds.
Depth: Shallows to 100m.
Distribution: Most common around the south west coast of Scotland. Increasing numbers of Starry Smoothhound in more northern areas of the west coast of Scotland over recent years have suggested a possible northern migration of the species.
Feeding: Smoothhound are active predators and feed mainly on crustaceans including shore crabs, hermit crabs, prawns and shrimp.
Biology: Males mature at around 75cm (2.8lb); females mature at around 85cm (4.2lb). Age at maturity is unknown. Starry Smoothhound are ovoviviparous, this means that eggs hatch and develop inside the female fish. Females give birth to 10-35 fully developed pups each year
Caution: Starry Smoothhound have strong jaws with crushing pads and abrasive skin.
Current Fishery: No targeted fishery though they are often taken in mixed trawls as by-catch.
Conservation Status: Least concern. Starry Smoothhound appear to be one of the few shark species whose abundance has remained relatively stable or increased in recent years.
GFAC Size: 80cm
Tagging: The minimum SSTP tagging size for Starry Smoothhound is 100cm (6.5lb). For advice on tagging sharks please refer to the SSTP tagging guide here.
Targeting Starry Smoothhound in Scotland
Tackle: From the boat a 6-12lb class rod and suitable reel loaded with 30lb braid is sufficient. From the shore a 5-6oz beach rod paired with a strong multiplier or fixed spool reel loaded with 15-20lb monofilament mainline will handle most Starry Smoothhound in Scottish waters.
End Tackle: A single strong size 2/0 to 4/0 barbless bronze hook with a 40-60lb monofilament hook length is sufficient for any Starry Smoothhound and will usually cope with small pack Tope that may take baits intended for hounds. Popular Starry Smoothhound rigs include pulley rigs, up ‘n’ over rigs and clipped down fixed paternosters. Clipped down rigs are particularly useful when fish are feeding at distance and a long cast is needed.
Bait: Peeler crab is the most popular and effective bait. Other baits include hermit crabs, prawns and live hardback crabs. Starry Smoothhound are opportunistic feeders and are occasionally caught on squid and worm baits.
Tactics: Starry Smoothhound movements usually coincide with crab peeling seasons, when temperatures rise and shore crabs begin to moult packs of Starry Smoothhound are rarely far behind. Fish often move closer inshore at night or after a strong onshore blow that colours the water. In many areas freshwater discharge to the sea through rivers after periods of rain will push Starry Smoothhound away from the coast. After casting it is important to release the drag on your reel: Starry Smoothhound takes are often aggressive and even a small hound is capable of pulling a rod from its rest.